Everything looks the same
I got the news yesterday that I have to have surgery again for my endometriosis. This is my 8th surgery for this insidious disease. Eighth. The ever-present pain and nausea are robbing me of good days, so I don’t really have a choice. I’m going to wait until my school semester is over if I can make it the next five weeks with these symptoms. In the meantime, I’ll eat Advil like Tic-Tacs and wear belly-forgiving dresses.
I can’t stop thinking about this surgery. I’m obsessive. I know exactly what to expect which makes it easier and yet far more dreadful. It’s not just the loss of my ovaries that I’m thinking about. It’s the entire thing; the whole process. The bowel prep days before and the silent apprehension I have in the pre-op area. It’s the nauseating smell of the hospital that reminds me of every other time I’ve been there. It’s the false bravado I put on when the cheery nurse comes in to take my vitals and insert the IV. Its the impatient way I wait for the anesthesiologist to come talk to me so I can get that shot that calms me down. It’s the way I sometimes try to show my anxiety so the blessed shot will come sooner, but never does.
It’s the curious horror I feel when I’m wheeled into the OR and I see, again, the gleaming silver trays filled with instruments meant to cut and cauterize and stitch my insides up. It’s the moment I try to enjoy the high I feel before I go under, the little bit of euphoria before I wake up puking and in such pain I shake from the inside.
It’s the heaviness I feel in the recovery room, like I’m trying to move in a dream. It’s seeing my husband’s face for the first time after surgery and being glad that he looks exactly the same and that he’s there smiling at me, sometimes with tears in his eyes and sometimes with a sense of relief in his eyes. It’s the alternating waves of heat and chills that pass through me before the nausea floods both of those sensations out. It’s the way I have to beg the nurses for the good stuff, “I’m going to throw up. I feel sick,” every single fucking time and their reluctance to give it to me because they know it’ll work but it’ll also knock me out and they’ll have a patient sleeping in a space where the next patient is supposed to go. It breaks up the flow of turn and burn surgery. Slice ’em and dice ’em and send ’em home.
It’s the hobbling to the bathroom to prove I can pee before I’m ready so the nurse can check the checklist and send me packing with the yellow copy and the post-op rules. It’s the wind in my hair as the hospital orderly wheels me through the maze of hallways and elevators, when the kind ones slow down over each door threshold and the others bounce on through. It’s the way I try to look like I’m okay as people look down at me in the wheelchair, even though I feel like my insides are not quite put back the way they were and my belly feels like a tender, bloated balloon.
It’s seeing my husband pull the car pull up and always being surprised that it too looks exactly the same. Everything looks exactly the same even though I am never the same, even though I was out for a lifetime and only for a second. It’s the drive home where I breathe through the bumps in the roads, trying to suspend my pelvis between the shock of the seat and the pain of lifting it over every single damn road bump. It’s pulling into the driveway and waiting for my husband to open the car door for me and lift me out, awkward and tentative and loving and gentle.
It’s shuffling through my house that looks exactly the same (but smells different) to my bed, where I lower myself down with painful slowness… easy easy easy, legs up, ouch, don’t breathe, breathe, ahh my pillow.
It’s sleeping the day away until the anesthesia wears off and I surprise my husband by getting out of bed by myself. It’s not knowing if the pain is from the surgery or a very full bladder and always defaulting to the bladder. It’s catching a glimpse of my ghost white face in the mirror and looking like I’ve been through something far worse than “minimally invasive” surgery. It’s looking down at the blood-soaked band aids that pepper my swollen belly and knowing that I have glue and blue sutures poking through my skin beneath. It’s waking up in the middle of that first night in as much pain as when I woke up from surgery and calling out to my husband for water and a pain pill.
It’s feeling better the next day and assuring everyone that this surgery is easier than the last when they’re really all the same. They, too, look exactly the same. It’s the repetitive laps I walk around the house to move the gas in my belly so that it moves through me instead of getting painfully trapped under my shoulder blades. It’s the calm before the storm when I feel kinda normal and I do too much and then feel worse again. It’s waking up in the middle of the night five days post-surgery and having my bladder seize up so tight that I pass out in the hall on the way to the bathroom. It’s waking up on the floor and promising to keep up with the pain meds and to stay ahead of the pain instead of chasing it down.
It’s the slow deflation of my belly and my pain and my energy and my patience. It’s the two-week mark when I’m done being a patient patient and I just want to fucking feel better. It’s the time when everyone stops calling because my answers are always the same and they’ve checked on me enough. It’s one month after when I can’t explain the fatigue I feel so I chalk it up to recovery even though every single doctor tells me I would feel better in a week. It’s the happiness I feel when the pre-surgery pain is gone and I’m glad I did this. It’s the cautious optimism I feel for the next two years that this surgery was the last. It’s the crushing disappointment and the impotent rage I feel when I’m scheduled for the next. It’s the gratitude I feel for having access to good medical care and the contrasting anger I feel for having to access it.